Why did the Communists win in 1949? Essay
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This assignment mainly focuses on why the communist won. However, to understand why and how they won, we need to cover the whole history of China, from the imperialism of the emperors to the taking of power by Mao. I will talk about certain leaders and what they did to affect history and also what role the peasants played in creating China as it is today. I will first give an insight into China before 1911.
China is a huge country, bigger than Europe and the Mediterranean with a population of a fourth of world’s populace.
While Britons were living in mud huts and were associated with the Prehistoric age, China had developed medicine, maths, engineering and astronomy. China was an ancient civilisation, spanning over 7000 years. Even though China had been around for so long, it exercised very little power on the outside, until of course recent times. An example of their unwillingness to communicate is shown when Britain took India. The British east India division approached the emperor offering to buy and sell goods. China sold their goods to the British but did not buy anything in return. The emperor [Qianlong] was quoted to say:
“There is nothing we lack. We have never set much store. On strange or ingenious objects, nor do we need any of your country’s goods”
China was, even in the 20th century, a feudal-bureaucratic country. At the top of the power pyramid sat the Emperor, served by thousands of local officials who extorted grain tax from the starving peasants. Peasants were at the bottom of the pyramid, oppressed by both the landlord and the bureaucratic. “The ideology of this ruling class was Confucianism, whose voluminous ‘classics’ were used to justify workings of society.” Landlords bought an education and official positions for their sons. Bureaucratic bought land as an economic bolster to their government positions.
Her a few basic facts concerning the Emperor and the Landlords
* The Emperor was very rich and very powerful
* The Emperor and the family had very long fingernails which represented their status
* The Emperor made all the laws
* The Emperor lived within the Forbidden city
* The Emperor was almost seen as a god
* The landlords assisted the Emperor in running China.
* The landlords were extremely powerful
* The landlord’s jobs were related to moneylenders, tax collectors and judges.
Unfortunately, the majority of Chinese were peasants (approximately 400,000,000 Chinese) they were exploited by the Emperor and his high society people. They acted as slave labour for the rich. They had to follow exactly what the Emperor ordered. It was the peasant who made the Great Wall of China. It was the peasant who created the Great canal, resulting 2million dead; there lives were not valued by the emperor. As there was such a massive population, when a million peasants died in 1877-9 due to starvation, the emperor did nothing to prevent this then or in the future. Because of the poor living conditions the peasants lived in, 10 million died in 1887-8.
On the 10th of October 1911, the revolution began. On this day began an uprising which in a year drove the manchus from power and led to a short – lived republic in place of the age old imperial system. The military garrison at Hankou revolted and was joined by the Imperial Navy. The foreign countries wisely stepped out of china’s affairs while the civil war was fought. When victory finally came and a republic was set up, the leader, Sun Yatsen came back from exile to become the new president of China. Unfortunately, he only lasted 15 days. He didn’t have enough power to rule China.
In the next decade, following the revolution, China was divided into many ‘kingdoms’. At the end of the Manchu dynasty, regional armies had been created and their generals became warlords when the Manchu dynasty collapsed. They ruled their own provinces and oppressed the people in the same way, or worse, than the Manchus.
“We must have soldiers, people say, so that the country will be strong. We must have armies to protect ourselves from foreigners. And the armies are continually recruiting men. And the people become poorer and poorer! Our old Lao Tse said it so well: where an army has passed, nothing grows except brambles. This is the case with us, where armies pass through again and again. Our situation has become intolerable… Let us not mince words, soldiers and bandits are two names for the same thing.”
This passage above is from a letter in a Chinese newspaper. Even with the revolution, the same problems still faced China.
* Cruelty of Local government
* Interference of foreign countries
However, The Kuomintang ( National people’s Party) was founded in 1912. The Kuomintang, the majority party in the new parliament, was a union of radical republicans and groups influenced by the 1905 Russian Revolution. Sun Yatsen, resigned president, was the leader of this party and set up a regime in Canton. It was as weak as the official, western-recognized government in Peking. Neither could control the warlords.
When World War I had finished, the Chinese fully expected that they would retrieve back the land the German’s had taken. This was not the case and the Japanese instead took the land. On May 4, 1919, students organized protest demonstrations, which soon swept the nation. Even a rail strike – the first reordered in Chinese history occurred. For the first time, both intellectuals and workers linked foreign imperialism with domestic reaction in a single slogan:
“Externally preserve our sovereignty and internally eliminate the traitors!”
The Two Parties
Even with all this chaos, two strong political groups sprung up – the Guomindang (GMD) led by Sun Yat-sen and the Chinese Communist Party. They both had the same objective: to end all China’s problems. However, their ways of achieving this were both completely different. Even though they had different ideas, initially they managed to work mutually. Another point is that they both were influenced by the Russian revolution in 1917. However, the GMD did not agree with the communist way and gradually drifted apart. The aims of the two parties were:
> China should become a prosperous and developed country.
> China should be free from foreign interference.
> China should be strong enough to compete with European countries such as Britain and France.
> Eventually, the people of China should become better off and be given more freedom.
> The state should take land from the landowners and redistribute it among the peasants.
> The state should own and organize industry so that profits should not go to the rich factory owners but should be used to benefit everyone.
> The people should be made more equal
> The people should have more say in running their own lives and governing the country.
> All these things should happen as soon as possible after the CCP come to power.
When Sun-Yat-sen died in 1925, Chinag Kai-Shek came into power. Unlike his predecessor, he did not like the communism and decided to eliminate them.
Events leading up to 1949 which made the Communism win
In March 1925 Sun Yat-sen died unexpectedly and the Kuomintang was taken over by Chiang Kai-shek, who solidified his position by marrying Sun’s sister-in-law, Soong Mei-ling. One of Chiang’s first moves was to expel Communists from leadership posts; by early 1927 the tenuous alliance was broken, and the Communists were retreating to the countryside, where there was growing peasant unrest and thus a potential base of support.
In October 1927 Mao led a small group of Hunan peasants to the mountains of Jiangxi Province, where he and other party members created a soviet-style government and began to build a guerrilla army. They gained peasant support in part by redistributing land. It was in Jiangxi the fledgling Red Army developed the tactics that would defeat the Nationalists. In three years the Jiangxi soviet controlled several million people in the countryside, and the Red Army had grown to 200,000 men.
It took Chiang’s troops three years to defeat the warlords and reunify the country. Then, in the early 1930s, the Kuomintang launched several extermination campaigns against the Communists. It was during this period that the Kuomintang killed Mao’s first wife and he married Ho Zizhen.
For a while the Red Army held its ground, but in 1934 Chiang unleashed his best-trained units against the Jiangxi enclave, and the Communists were forced to flee. So began the Long March, a 6,000-mile fighting retreat from Jiangxi to the mountain town of Yan’an in remote northern Shaanxi Province. Only a tenth of the 80,000 guerrilla fighters who began the march survived. From this point forward Mao was the undisputed Chinese Communist leader.
The Long March may have been a military and population defeat, but it wans’t a victory Chiang had been expecting. The Long March was a great victory for the Communist as Mao said:
“We answer that the Long March is the first of its kind in History, that it is a manifesto, a propaganda force, a seeding machine… It has proclaimed to the world that the Red Army is an army of heroes, while the imperialists and their running dogs, Chinag Kai-shek and his like, are impotent. It has proclaimed their utter failure to encircle, pursue, obstruct and intercept us… It has announced to some 200 million people in eleven provinces that the road of the Red Army is their only road to liberation.”
The GMD army was notorius for being ruthless and improper. The Long March would have led the CCP into many villages towns and lands. This would have not just allowed the CCP to infom the peasants of their ways, but also alow the people to see the army and what it stands for. The CCP were very well disciplined.
1. Speak politely
2. Pay Fairly for what you buy
3. Return everything you borrow
4. Pay for anything you damage
5. Do not hit or swear at people
6. Do not damage crops
7. Do not take liberties with women#
8. Do not ill-treat captives
People were sho0cked by the behaviour the army acted in. However,, when the GMD chasing the CCP went through, for example, the same village, it would not act in a similar way. They would kill, plunder, rape, and other crimes if they even thought they talked to the enemy. When people say the well behaved Red Army, and then saw the GMD they would have come up with a mental image of who to side with. This would have lead to requrutment, if not whilst the CCP were retreating, but when the Communists were getting stronger after the Long March.
Requiment was the Key to Mao’s victory. He wanted not a technological army, or a political one, or even a powerful army, but a peasant army. Mao saw that 90% of china was made up of peasants. If he could get the peasants, he would win. Mao’s aims were directed for the peasants. Mao had the experience of understanding and knowing what the peasant went through, what they needed and what they wanted.
“‘ I have a new plan’, Siao explained, ‘for this summer, I have decided that I’m going to try being a beggar.’
Mao was incredulous and inquisitive. <…> He wanted to try it again, this time for a longer period of time, drawn by the challenge of overcoming the difficulties of living in the society of others without money.”
Also, Mao continuously asked peasants of their conditions. By doing this he would give the impression to the people that he cared about them and wanted to do something for them. Mao’s political views on peasants were by far different then Chiang. Chiang hardly ever commented on the peasants and when he did, it was not intended to show support for them, but to comment on how they are there to be sued as slaves for his army.
Personally, I think the biggest turning point for Mao’s party was the invasion of China by Japan. Mao agreed that they should join sides with the GMD to fight the Japanese. Unfortunately, Chinag was reluctant but after persuauisson he decided to unite to fight the Japanese.
Chiang Kaishek briefly fought the Japanese. In the first year of the war, his armies were driven out of the cities and deep inland. From then until 1945 the GMD undertook no major initiatives against the Japanese. Chou Enlai said:
“The first day of the anti-japanese war will mean the beginning of the end for Chiang Kaishek.”
Chiang had lost his base in the costal cites and he did not dare mobilize the peasants as he feared they would turn against him. However, the foreign countries still recognized Chiang as the head of state in China and therefore supplied him with arms and troops. However, Chiang held back. He knew that the Japanese would be defeated and therefore held back from fighting and save his military might for after the war when he would once again go back to attacking the communists. Unfortunately this was a very bad manoeuvre in the long run. The people of China saw what Chiang was doing and compared him to Mao’s army, who were putting all there power into defending the Chinese people. This brought about hatreds toward Chinag and his government resulting in tens of thousands Red Army.
“Mao’s areas of control grew to cover nearly 100 million people. The Red Army expanded to between 500,000 and 1 million troops.”
However, even when the war had ended, the GMD still outnumbered the CCP by 3 to 1. So what did Mao do to persuade people that his way was the best way? Once again, he directed his efforts towards the peasants. In the liberated base area of Yanna in one of the poorest, most desolate regions of North China, Mao began to put Chinese Marxism into practise (he did this actually during the war). The communists organized themselves both military and economically. They reduced land rent and fixed low interest rates; but, at the same time, encouraged cooperative work in agriculture and industry. They organized schools, universities, technological training institutes and art schools. Their system of mass organization and participation in government was called “Democratic Centralism”. It was based on the principle of “from the people to the people”, which, in practice, meant that the masses must be consulted, decisions made on the basis of such consultation, and these decisions explained to the masses.
Mao very cleverly adopted a method in which to fuel the process of revolution inside the peasants. Mao wanted the make the peasants feel that they could change the way they lived. He wanted to feel that their views counted and that they were important. They had suffered so long under the landlords that Mao knew that if they were offered a way out they would take it; and Mao was able to show them that this way out was through a whole range of cooperative methods. But first, the peasants had to be allowed to come to centre stage, to experience their collective power. In Yanan, the communists organized a new way of allowing the people to realize that they could change the way things were.
“What was it that won over most villages to us? The Speak Bitterness sessions. We organized these in every village.” – Mao
For the first time in their lives, peasants were encouraged to stand up to their oppressors.
“In the women of China, the Communists possessed one of the greatest masses of disinherited human beings the world has ever seen. And because they found the key to the heart of these women, they also found one of the keys to victory over Chinag Kai-shek.”
If not for these ‘Bitterness Discussions’, the peasants would never even have spoken up, no less made a revolution if Communist Part cadres had lorded it over them like the bureaucrats of old. Mao had developed a new style of leadership – “the style of plain living and hard struggle.” Cadres were to go to the villages, to live the harsh life of the peasants, and to earn their respect by learning from them and demonstrating new ways to them rather than trying to command them.
“‘Draw the bow without shooting, just indicate the motions.’ It is for the peasants themselves to cast aside idols… It is wrong for anybody to do it for them.”
This method of winning and governing the people may have been the hardest and longest, but by a far margin, it would most likely have been the most effective. By doing this, Mao created a people who were not slaves, but a people who worked for him because they believed in what they were doing.
While Mao was creating a nation of followers, Chinag was doing the exact opposite. The government’s representatives in every county were demanding from the peasants more grain from them then they could make.
“No excuses were allowed; peasants who were eating elm bark and dried leaves had to haul their last sack of seed grain to the tax collectors office. Peasants who were so weak they could barely walk had to collect fodder that for the army’s horses, fodder that was more nourishing that the filth they were cramming into their own mouths…
We Knew that there was a fury, as cold and relentless as death itself, in th bosom of the peasants of Honan, that their loyalty had been hollowed to nothingness by the extortion of their government.” – American Journalist Theodore White
The same journalist went on further saying:
“The peasants, as we saw them, were dying. They were dying on the roads, in the mountains, by the railway stations, in their mud huts, in the fields. And as they died, the government continued to wring from them the last possible tax.”
Mao summed it up.
“The Kuomintang is an amorphous body of no definite character or program… Chiang is stubborn. But fundamentally he is a gangster.”
What Mao is saying is that Chiang is not fighting for anyone or anything but himself. Where the people can see Mao fighting for them, helping them improving them, they can see that Chiang is not helping them in the slightist. Mao has a purpose, a fulfilment, a program; Chiang doesn’t. Why would people support someone who acts like a tyrant? Mao would not only be getting support from people supporting him, but from people against the GMD.
After the war, while American negotiators were trying to bring Mao and Chiang together, the American president gave an extra helping hand to Chiang. America, of course, did not want China to become communist. Chiang’s troops were rearmed with American weapons and a massive American airlift moved them all over china. Also, 60,000 U.S marines were stained in the north as a “force for stability”.
However, if you recall, one of the GMD’s aims was to:
> China should be free from foreign interference.
However, Chiang did not follow his aims. To his people he told them that he hated Europeans and wanted a foreign free state. But behind their backs, he collaborated with the western world. He traded with them. He borrowed with the. He signed agreements with them. He fought with them.
“Chiang Kai-shek was full of contradictions. He relied on Western support, but he did not like Europeans. He claimed to be the defender of China’s independence but he made little effort to drive the Japanese out of China. He gave great commercial advantages to Western businessmen, the very men he did not like. he was very proud. He told his friends that he was the descendant of Duke Wen, who had been the founder of the Zhou Dynasty of Emperors. He was in fact the son of a small landowner. He was intolerant of any opposition to him, and increasingly used murder as his final argument.”
Unfortunately, after 3-4 years of fighting, Mao had conquered almost all of China and most of the American arms were in Mao’s hands. On the 1st October 1949, the People’s Republic of China
“It was in Jiangxi the fledgling Red Army developed the tactics that would defeat the Nationalists 22 years later — establish a peasant base of support in the countryside, encircle the cities and choke off the Nationalist garrisons one by one.”
In this section, I will re-summarise the main points in which I think that helped Mao and his army to come to power.
* Guerrilla war tactics
* Gained peasant support by a number of ways: Treating them fairly, Giving them Land, Allowing them to speak up against Landlords, Giving them respect when their armies are marching through their territory, treating them equally and so on.
* Long March: act of symbolism and what they stand for: allows to spread word round of their aims: allows it to be used by propaganda methods.
* Following out what they preach
* Non-foreign interference at all
* The way Chiang acted: Cruel to peasants, associated with foreigners
* World War 11. Shows up what the communists are for and what Chiang was for.
* Chiang contradicted himself may a time
* Women rights
Note. Underlined bullet points are points, which I have gone into detail. All the other points, only commented on them briefly (one paragraph).
In my conclusion I will look at pick one or two factors which I think made the most difference in terms of Mao winning China. I think Guerrilla warfare played a key part in turning around the battle. As most of time the Red Army was vastly out numbered Mao’s famous guerrilla tactic was important for ensuring the survival of the army, and the defeat of GMD.
“When the enemy advances, we retreat.
When the enemy camps, we harass.
When the enemy tires, we attack.
When the enemy retreats, we pursue.”
It was also essential in one way for recruitment. Young boys and men would be more interested in a warfare were they didn’t sacrifice their life’s by just charging at an enemy (e.g. world war 1). The idea of waiting and sabotaging the enemy and not even getting fired at would appeal more than having to forfeit their life’s aimlessly which used to happen a lot. This may not be what really goes on, but in the propaganda campaign, people may see it like this. As you often work in small units it would also create a bond with your partners.
The next point, which also mainly decided the fate of the communists, was the peasants. I will only be brief, as I have already gone into detail. The peasants were a key role in taking of China. Without their support, there would be no army, no support (food, clothing) no information, no shelter from reigning enemies and most importantly no country. As said previously, China is made up of peasants. Until you control the peasants, you don’t control China. There will always be uprising from within. The emperors used to use fear and separation (loads of small communities) which worked. But as people started communicating together and started to get more intelligent (cities brought schools and universities allowing not only the rich to get educated), people broke out of the ‘hard nut shell’ that they had been encased in for so many generations.
Unfortunately, the people who broke out were the workers, not the peasants. That is why, until Mao conquered, the peasants had still been under the ruthless law’s of the Landowners even after the revolution. Only the industrial workers had been more independent. However, Chiang didn’t realise that the body of China was the peasants. He thought he could control the body by a similar way to before, but just under a new name. Once people started to realise that they could do something about this, they started to rebel( Mao).
However, the un-educated didn’t know anything else than before and that is why they succumbed to Chiang’s way. That was why Mao needed to show the peasants that they could actually make a difference. If he used force and violence, then they would be like blind sheep, and the intellectuals would turn their backs on him, and only see another emperor greedy for power. The way to the peasants was through education and understanding. Once they understood, then they would flock to him like bee’s to honey. Once Mao showed the peasants that they were the one’s in charge, they could make a difference and that they could lead a better life, that’s when Mao would win. And he did.
” In a short time <…> several million peasants will ride like a mighty storm, like a hurricane, a force so swift and violent that no power, however great, will be able to hold it back. They will smash all the trammels that bind tem and rush forward along the road to liberation. They will sweep all the imperialists, warlords, corrupt officials, local tyrants and evil gentry into their graves. Every revolutionary comrade will be put to the test to be accepted or rejected as they decide. There are three alternatives. To march at their head and lead them? To trail behind them gesticulating and criticizing? Or to stand in their way and oppose them? Every Chinese is free to choose, but events will force you to make the choice quickly.”